Tag Archives: road trip

Great Travel Apps

whatsppI am a traveler.

It’s part of my identity.

It’s my passion

Outside of my family, I can’t think of anything I love more.

I am most alive when I am traveling.

To date, I’ve visited 57 countries, 47 states and every continent on earth. I’ve been a travel writer for years, although I do that on a smaller scale today. But I am constantly planning and researching travel and discovering new travel apps.

There are so many resources and apps that can make the journey more enjoyable and save you money. Here are some stellar travel related apps to consider that fit a variety of personalities and itineraries and offer a few travel tips, too. If you have other travel apps you love, please post them in the comments. I’d love to check it out.

General

If you’re flying anywhere, it’s a good idea to download the app for the airline you are traveling on and set up text alerts for delays.

If you’re a planner, then Tripit will be your friend. This app creates a master itinerary for your travel plans and suggests attractions and activities for your trip. You can check local maps, weather updates, and more. There’s an upgraded, paid version that includes features like flight status alerts. Basic service is free and available for most smart phones. www.tripit.com

No one knows a city like a local and that’s what makes Localeur such a cool app. It’s a community of local reviews for everything from restaurants to dance venues to attractions. Find the best whiskey bars in Austin or a great coffee shop in Denver. Free. Available for iPhone users. http://www.localeur.com

If you enjoy dining out, then BiteHunter is a great app to have. This real time location app will tell you where you can find a restaurant coupon or fixed price dinner. Be sure to read the fine print though because it gets deals from sites like Living Social, which can take 24 hours to become active, so if you’re only in the city for a night, you may miss the deal. Your first purchase may be time consuming, but the app will remember your information after that making it easier. Free and available for iPhones.  www.bitehunter.com

International

If you’re traveling overseas and want to avoid costly text messaging charges, download WhatsApp Messenger for free international texting. WhatsApp is a mobile messaging service owned by Facebook. Here’s they key, the app can only text other phones that have downloaded the app, so if you want to text friends or family members, they have to download it, too. It’s easy to use.  It just released a calling feature, but data charges may apply for the WhatsApp Calling feature. It’s available for most smart phones for free the first year (99 cents subsequent years). www.whatsapp.com

If you’re traveling overseas, the XE Currency App makes currency conversion a snap.  The app converts money from all over the world so you can easily understand the local currency. And the good news is it’s  Free. For iPhone, Android and Blackberry users. http://www.xe.com/apps/

Cruising

Cruise Ship Mate is a popular app because it covers all the major cruise ships and allows you to see a layout of the ship, deck maps, check the weather at your port, read different viewers, and more. It’s free and available for iPhone and Android. www.cruiseshipmate.com

Have you ever gotten to the end of a cruise and nearly had a heart attack when you got the final bill on disembarking day? There’s an app for that. To budget, and track the size of your bill as you go (including how fast those cocktails add up each day), download Cruise Card Control. It’s available for $2.99 for iPhones. www.cruisecardcontrol.com

For the Foodies

How often have you tasted a great wine on a trip and sworn that you will remember it, only to forget it by the time you get home? You need the Vivino app, which has so many cool features. It uses a photo label recognition system that can quickly bring up bring up information for a given wine, complete with reviews, ratings, and tasting notes. So the next time you travel, snap a photo of that great wine label and find it when you get home. This app is useful to any wine drinker, not just while traveling. Free. Available for Android and iPhone. www.vivino.com

There’s a saying that you eat with your eyes first. Well, that what makes the Foodspotting app so great. This app is a visual guide to food. There aren’t specific restaurant recommendations, but instead specific dishes are recommended.  Want to know who has great deep dish pizza in Chicago or another dish specific to a city? You will find it here. There are a variety of search mechanisms from neighborhood to category. It’s available for most smart phones. http://www.foodspotting.com

For the Road Tripper

The Gas Buddy app helps you save a dollar or two on your road trip because it allows you to locate gas stations near you and compare their prices. It’s free and available for most smart phones. www.gasbuddy.com

If you hate traffic and are traveling this summer, then the Waze app is a must. It’s advertised as largest community-based traffic and navigation app and it helps you avoid traffic, accidents, construction, speed traps, etc. Download the app, type in your destination and drive with the app open on your phone. You can contribute to it, too. Free. Available for most smart phones. https://www.waze.com/

One more note, open apps and GPS can quickly sap your battery, so invest in a car charger if you don’t have one.

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The Biltmore Estate is incredible

I wrote this story last month for The Joplin Globe, but somehow forgot to share it here. If you have never been, The Biltmore Estate is incredible. I’ve visited many times and will continue to go back. It’s the equivalent of visiting an amazing European castle, but you don’t have to leave the United States. This castle is SPECTACULAR at Christmas. And imagine, this was someone’s personal home?

Anyway, here is the story:

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, has something special to offer in every season.

In the spring, a sea of more than 100,000 vibrant tulips and daffodils sweep across the landscape during the Festival of Flowers.  The Biltmore is America’s largest privately owned home and the original gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York and the grounds around the U.S Capitol. A visit to the gardens is a must for any flower lover.

bilt

In summer, visitors can soak up the beauty of more than 250 varieties of roses in the rose garden; take one of several gardening classes offered; or enjoy float trips, hiking, horseback riding, carriage rides, kayaking and other outdoor activities around the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is the backdrop for this mansion. There are sporadic concerts on the lawn in the summer, too.

Fall is a feast for the eyes and taste buds. There are wine and food-centered festivals and events (particularly in September), and the gardens glow with orange and gold mums. Plus, there’s the golden blush and amber kiss of autumn on the trees.

Fly fishing, Segway tours and horseback riding are all popular attractions this time of year. Cooler temperature means it’s a perfect time to explore the 8,000 acres that make up this estate.

In winter, the Biltmore house, a 250-room French Renaissance chateau, is decked out in Christmas glory and is a must for any holiday enthusiast. There are 50 Christmas trees in the home, including a 35-foot tree in the banquet hall.

The 65 fireplaces in this castle are adorned with garlands, wreaths and give the mansion a warm glow.   Antique ornaments, twinkling lights, Christmas carolers and many more Christmas trees decorate the surrounding estate.  There are candlelight night tours of the mansion showcasing its holiday beauty.

In every season, you can enjoy estate wines, wine tasting classes, a selection of fabulous food from a variety of restaurants on the property, outdoor activities, and shopping,

But no matter what the season, a tour of the Biltmore House is the main attraction.

It is 175,000 square feet of magnificence—to put that in perspective, the White House is only 55,000.

The extravagant mansion features original paintings by Renoir and a library stocked with more than 10,000 books.

Construction on the “chateau” began in 1889 and was the vision of George Vanderbilt. He was the grandson of the famous shipping tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, who was one of the richest families in that time period.

It took six years to complete the Biltmore and nearly 10 million pounds of limestone was used in the construction. The limestone was harvested in Indiana and shipped to North Carolina.

When George Vanderbilt opened the doors of his mansion, it showcased four acres of floor space, 43 bathrooms, an indoor pool, and a bowling alley (keep in mind, this was built in the late 1800s).

The banquet hall is stunning and boasts a 70-foot ceiling. When you tour this house, it feels like you’re in Europe. The opulence is jaw dropping. I’ve visited several times and I am continuously blown away, especially when I consider how long ago this mansion was constructed.

Vanderbilt was a bachelor when he built this, but he married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser shortly after in 1898. Many of their original artifacts are still in the home.

The couple welcomed for their only child, Cornelia, in 1900.

Vanderbilt died in 1914. He was 51.

Cornelia went on to marry a British diplomat John Francis Amherst Cecil, and they had two sons together.

In 1930, she opened the house to the public, hoping that this would lure tourists in during the Great Depression and help the surrounding city of Asheville.

Both sons grew up and helped preserve and manage the estate.

Their son William Cecil planted the first vineyards on the property in 1971. Today, the Biltmore is knowns for its wine and the website claims it’s the most visited winery in America.

There is so much to do, see, taste, and experience here; the Biltmore is a banquet for the senses and a wonderful getaway.

If you go:
A tour of the house will take an entire day, especially if you opt for an audio tour.  People with limited mobility may want to split it up over two days because the house alone stretches over four acres.

Depending on when you visit, you could safely plan three to four days at the Biltmore Estate, especially if you enjoy gardening or the outdoors. If all you want to do is tour the home and take a few classes or eat and shop, two days is sufficient.

There are many restaurants, seminars, classes, shops and outdoor activities on the estate. Some are free and some have a fee. Aside from spectacular gardens, there are gardening classes, wine tasting seminars, a plethora of outdoor activities.

The Biltmore has several inns and hotels, but they are pricier options than staying in Asheville and driving in to the estate.

Depending on the season, there are discounts online (there are often discounts in the fall). Visit www.biltmore.com for more information.

Photos courtesy of the Biltmore Company